• Apr

    Five things that must go right for the Orioles to compete in 2013

    There’s nothing like opening day! Hope spring eternal for a team that will compete for a pennant and bring enjoyment to their fans throughout the long spring and summer.

    For the first time in a long time, Orioles fans can have that same hope. This time legitimately. Coming off an amazing 93-win season a year ago, the Orioles have a realistic chance to compete for the AL East crown this year.

    Here are the five things that need to go right in 2013 to compete once again:

    1. The Rotation must stay strong

    The rotation must prove its naysayers wrong and pitch like they did in the second half of 2012. Jason Hammel will head up this rotation and he must prove his 2012 breakout season was the start of something big, and not a career year. He has the stuff and the mentality to be an ace, but he’ll need his knee to stay healthy. Wei-Yin Chen will need to prove he can be effective over an entire season after tiring last September/October (0-4 record with a 5.05 ERA). Second year starter Miguel Gonzalez will break camp with a major league team for the first time today and he’ll need to prove his breakout year last year was not just a Cinderella story. Chris Tillman’s rise last year from the ashes was another great story, and despite some injury issues this spring, Orioles fans have to hope he continues to have the success he had in the second half of last year. Lastly, Jake Arrieta will get one last chance to prove he can be an effective major league starter. He has some of the best stuff on the staff, and he’ll need to show some consistency or he’ll quickly be replaced by the minor league depth that’s just itching for a chance.

    Speaking of that depth, this is one of the key reasons the Orioles starting rotation should remain strong in 2013. With Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Jair Jurrjens, and Freddy Garcia at AAA, they have four starters with major league experience and let’s not forget Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy in Bowie. That’s a lot of capable starting pitchers and despite the questions that surround the five current starters, the depth of starting candidates will allow Buck to find capable replacements if anyone falters.

    2. The bullpen must repeat

    It might be tough for the Orioles bullpen to repeat it’s fantastic run last year, but then again, it’s hard to find a guy in the pen who you think can’t be successful. Jim Johnson may have the toughest time repeating after posting a career high 51 saves in 2012. His naysayers point to his 5.4 K/9 strikeout rate but they conveniently forget he’s a groundball machine who put up a 2.13 GO/AO ratio. Darren O’Day proved last year that when he’s healthy, he’s a good a set-up man that’s out there and Pedro Strop may be one of the better young right-handed relievers who put up a team best 2.44 GO/AO ratio last year. Brian Matusz will return to the role he was so good at last season and Troy Patton will give Buck another solid left-handed option. Luis Ayala is the swiss army knife guy who can come in during any situation and give you a couple innings and Tommy Hunter will be the long man.  The Orioles also kept Rule five pitcher TJ McFarland but when Tillman comes off the DL for the 5th game of the season, the Orioles will have to make a decision on him.

    3. Matt Wieters or Chris Davis will need to prove they can be a middle of the order guy

    Matt Wieters tore the cover off the ball this spring and he’ll bat fourth today. The question remains though, is this the year that his bat finally becomes an impact bat? He’s had streaks before, but Wieters will need to improve upon is .249/.329/.435/.764 line of a year ago to be a legitimate middle of the order bat. If Wieters doesn’t step up, Chris Davis will need to. Davis broke out in 2012 with his 33 home runs and .270/.326/.501/.827 line, but he’s prone to slumps and his 169 strikeouts last year can be troublesome. Regardless, one of these guys will need to be that middle of the order guy and help make up for the home runs lost when Mark Reynolds was let go. Adam Jones should be a constant at the three hole but he can’t slip off his 2012 numbers and it would be nice if he even takes another step as he enters into his prime.

    4. The health of Nolan Reimold, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis

    All three of these guys come in with injury concerns both in the past and in the case of Markakis and Reimold this spring already as well. Reimold could easily replace the Reynolds home runs with better overall plate discipline, but he’ll need to prove he can play every day and stay on the field. Something he’s never really done at the big league level. Markakis is coming off his first injury-riddle season and with some neck issues this spring, the Orioles have to hope he can make it through the season without missing time. Roberts had a remarkable spring and looks healthy. He’s probably not going to be the Brian Roberts of three years ago, but he should be an upgrade offensively at second base and in the nine hole compared to last year. Defensively though, he does not have the arm strength that Robert Andino had and he’ll probably be a downgrade defensively.

    5. Key contributions from unsung guys

    Last season, it seemed like a different player stepped up in every win and the Orioles will need that again in 2012. It’s tough to call Manny Machado and JJ Hardy unsung guys, but really they need to better their offensive numbers in 2013 while playing their outstanding left-side defense.  Guys like Steve Pearce, Ryan Flaherty and Taylor Teagarden to come up with some timely hits again and don’t forget about that depth in AAA. Conor Jackson, LJ Hoes, Jonathan Schoop and Chris Dickerson had nice springs and could be factors at some point in 2013.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.